The following is a review written for Easternkicks.com and reposted here. Live@Love was originally viewed at the East Winds Film Festival 2014 (International Festival Premiere)
The Detective-RomCom ‘Live@Love’, from Taiwanese Director Chang Shi, has a lot of heart but no big reach, settling for being a mediocre outing
Director. Chang Shi
East Winds Film Festival. International Festival Premiere
Du Ji runs a detective agency in the bustling historical town of Sanxia that masquerades as a fortune telling shop, whilst Yan (TV Heartthrob Liu Yi-Hao, in his first major movie role) is a fresh wide-eyed boy looking for a job as an Assistant Detective, who come knocking at Du Ji’s door. The two pass the days divulging knowledge from Master to Assistant, rescuing dogs and hunting down wanton lovers until fate comes calling and drops a mysterious murder in their laps, of Husband Song-Yi desperately trying to clear his name after his wife Yu-Ming has won the lottery but suddenly drops dead from poisoning by a banned gardening substance.
Live@Love sets a dramatic piece that kicks the film quickly off and doesn’t slow down until the very end, however despite this romping attitude it never seems to do anything quickly or is forthcoming with much
scope in the actions of it’s characters and narrative. For all the problems in the plot; there always seems to be a way of getting around roadblocks, as Du Ji just happened to get ran over by a police officer (Brother Shawn) and holds blackmail material over him to get useable evidence any time the plot, and their investigations, stall to a halt. Song-Yi at first seems innocent, however the unveiling of his several Mistresses seems to quickly offer a different opinion. Ting-June gets offed quickly, and suspicion points at Song-Yi after his second Mistress Sheena drops dead whilst Detective Assistant Yan is both pursuing her affections and trying to extract evidence for their murder case.
The romance aspect of the film is sorely lacking, feeling shoehorned in at best and harming the narrative at worst. The brother-sister element between Du-Ji and Yan is the best part of the film in the first act; them both partying in spontaneous street dances (that just appear outside their door with no prior setup), her setting him up at a strip club and constantly sniping and teasing each other. When the film settles into the second and final act, the audience is lead to believe Du-Ji has feelings for Yan and they are lovers, albeit little setup of this is previously shown and their sibling relationship is a much more palatable and
understanding payoff (despite being overturned for one of lovers). The comedy, whilst not misplaced, rose
little more than a few titters and a snort or two from a packed cinema audience screening. I feel a lot of it was misjudged or tries to play on local humor, instead falling on deaf ears when the soundtrack oddly jumps to push for a larger laugh, which instead only makes the situation feel less than humorous and more one of awkwardness and stupid discomfort.
Live@Love has a lot of passion, which is evident in the beautiful camerawork and settings, along with some lovely cinematography and passionate sell-able acting from the whole cast. What is lacking however is some polish in the script, and whilst this is half made-up by the trickling soundtrack that perfectly fits the slow ticking and precise memorial of a detective film, nothing can solve the fact that heart and passion can’t make up for lacking elements. The narrative features a lot of amazing elements that would blend well together, yet instead slot awkwardly like a child attacking a jigsaw with a hammer, which is where the script needed some more polish and fine-tuning to allow smoother blending of the composed elements. Overall, Live@Love isn’t a bad film; the fact is that it prefers to fallow in mediocrity instead of pushing one element the most to standout, it tries to be all genres for all audiences and falls flat instead of having a focus. Director Chang Shi’s Live@Love is distinctly average and whilst there is nothing bad about that (and it was a perfectly enjoyable film), I won’t be watching it a second time and it deserves the average rating it has gotten.